Sunday, December 30, 2018

"Over the Sandy Coast of Mali" -- A Eulogy for A Magical Being (Barry R. DunKley, March 7, 1951 - November 26, 2018)

Richard Power and Barry DunKley circa 1980s.
[Eulogy for Barry R. DunKley by Richard Power. Delivered at his Celebration/Memorial held on Saturday, December 29, 2018, at the Unity Church of North Easton (Massachusetts). Full text.]

It is an honor to speak for Barry Richard DunKley, both as a life-long friend and the official emissary of the San Francisco Lodge of the Theosophical Society.

A magical being. I don’t use the term casually or cavalierly.

I use it in alignment with the great myths of our time, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series. Truly a magical being.

Any one of the great houses of Hogwarts would have been proud to have him: Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin or Gryffindor

But I am guessing the Sorting Hat would have offered him a choice, as it does for some of us.

He would have been tempted to go Slytherin, because of his great cunning and his will of steel.

But he too probably would have ended up Gryffindor, because of his great valor and his compassion.

50 years. 5 decades. The arc of a friendship and a shared spiritual adventure.

We grew up a few blocks from each other. Literally. Way uptown. In Inwood.

But we did not meet on those streets.

In very early 1968, maybe even late 1967, we both took the A Train downtown, independent of each other, got off at 59th Street, Columbus Circle, independent of each other, and volunteered at the NY state HQ of the insurgent progressive Democratic presidential campaign of Sen Eugene McCarthy, independent of each other.

AND that’s where we met and become friends …

Many of our fellow youth were going “Clean for Gene,” shaving their long hair and beards and donning ties and sports jackets and going door to door in New Hampshire for the upcoming primary. But Barry and I were jokingly referred to as “Unclean for Gene” – we took over the mimeograph room, and kept it running night and day, they fed us sandwiches bought with petty cash, we crashed on the floor, Barry painted a Scottish flag on the side of a brown cardboard box and hung it from the fire escape, he daydreamed about stealing the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey and returning it to Edinburgh Castle (it was returned voluntarily in 1996) … We worked for the legendary political operative, Harold Ickes, a fierce partisan, who would go on to be WH Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton. He would slam down the phone and shout “Shit fire and save matches!”

We were engaged in the great social struggles of our youth.

With Barry’s faithful friend Bruce Kamiat, we marshalled at several huge protest rallies. Hundreds of thousands of people on the move, protesting the war in Vietnam … In August 1968, Barry traveled to the Democratic Convention in Chicago and personally experienced what history would come to call “a police riot.” I didn’t go to Chicago … But I do remember vividly the autumn night that racist third-party candidate George Wallace held a rally at Madison Square Garden. There was rage and chaos in the air. We were not parade marshals that night. We were being chased down a street, a young woman fell and a police man was moving to strike her with his billy club. Barry stepped between them. He was instantly surrounded by police, swinging at him with billy clubs. But Barry was a black belt. It was magnificent. They broke his arm. But I’m sure those officers remembered that encounter.

There was magic all around us from the beginning. So many memories …

On the Lower East Side, across the street from the Fillmore East, we played Go until dawn in the Cafe Dharma, with bikers, witches and martial arts masters.

Barry went on to enlist in the United States Marine Corp.

Then he emerged from that crucible of training to join NYPD.

He attained the rank of Sergeant.

He was racing through an intersection, with sirens blaring, on some errand of mercy. His squad car was hit by an 18-wheel truck. They had to use the “Jaws of Life” to extract him from the wreckage. It took two hours to get him out.

The story made the front page of the N.Y. Daily News. His injuries were grave.

We didn’t know. Maybe he wouldn’t make it. Maybe he would be paralyzed.

It was a death event really, but not for this magical being.

By then I was already living in San Francisco, so I flew back.

When I walked into his hospital room, he was already out of bed, in a wheelchair,

He stood up. And saluted me.

Barry and I shared a life-long passion for the greatest literature of the English language, for Joyce, for Twain, for Tolkien …

And yes, we shared a life-long inquiry into the mysteries, into the spiritual dimensions of life …

At the Strand and Samuel Weiser’s we found books that shaped our adventures.

We found Somerset Maugham’s The Razor Edge, and then we walked it for the rest of our lives.

We read P.D. Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous, and then we took up the quest.

Each in our own way.

While I was exploring Advaita Vedanta and Tibetan Buddhism in San Francisco, Barry was exploring the teachings of the great Armenian mystic and philosopher, George Gurdjieff in New York …

Barry had an uncanny understanding of Gurdjieff, a gestalt really, I say he had a deeper attunement to “Mr G” than some of those acknowledged as leaders in that particular tradition.

In “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson: All and Everything,” Gurdjieff wrote, “I have already told you that certain fragments of this knowledge happened to remain intact and passed from generation to generation through a very limited number of initiated beings ….”

Gurdjieff was larger than life, and Barry was larger than life. In “The Arousing,” Gurdjieff declared, “If you go on a spree, go whole hog, including the postage.” He drank absinthe, smoked cigars and went whole hog including the postage. Barry drank cognac, smoked cigars and went whole hog including the postage. But when they did they were doing more than just drinking cognac, smoking cigars and “going whole hog including the postage.” I could explain it, but I won’t, because it’s really best if you experience it for yourself, from the inside out.

In San Francisco, I was fortunate enough to meet the legendary American sages Joe and Guin Miller on a walk they took every Thursday in Golden Gate Park and was soon attending their evening gatherings at the San Francisco Lodge of the Theosophical Society … Imagine if the Jedi master Yoda had been a tenor in burlesque and vaudeville, and then later worked for the entertainer’s union in the nightclubs of North Beach … And then imagine that this 20th Century earthling Yoda was married to a concert pianist who had swam the Golden Gate, graduated from U.C. Berkeley in the Roaring Twenties and had a Zen stick glance and a diamond-cutter heart …

I introduced Barry to Joe and Guin. He loved them too, and they loved him too. Barry became part of our circle, and joined the Lodge, standing with us faithfully, for the rest of his life.

The Millers message was simple. They weren’t your teachers, they were your friends. They didn’t want your money. They just offered you unconditional love.

The motto of our Lodge is “No Religion Higher than Truth. No Power Greater than Love.”

“Just be,” Joe would declare, “just be who you are from the depth of what you feel.”

“Take a gentle, in-drawn breath into the heart, with the feeling of love flowing out.”

50 years. 5 decades. The arc of a friendship and a shared spiritual adventure.

The last time Barry and I spent some time together on the physical place was a lunch south of San Francisco two or three years ago. It was just the two of us.

Our conversation flowed like a great peaceful river. We both remarked how marvelous it was that after so many years, and so much life, and so much distance, we were still in sync, still friends, still allies, still leaning forward, in the same direction.

Rare. Rare indeed. Because each of us in our own strange ways were hard men, each in our own different ways were larger than life. So, yes, our friendship needed a lot of room to thrive, a lot of space, and yet after 50 years, 5 decades, there we were, on the same page.

The last texts Barry and I shared was in late October.

His beloved Jennie had been kind enough to keep me in the loop. So, I knew.

I felt to text him an excerpt from one particular song in Lord of the Rings:

Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow,
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master:
His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.

Tom Bombadil was a mysterious entity in Tolkein's mythos. Immensely powerful, utterly unpredictable, uproariously joyful. There are numerous theories about what he actually was …

Here is the rest of the text thread --

BRD: He was always my hero.

RGP: I know! I remember. You are a part of him! He is a part of you. A big part!

BRD: It was the Ring having no effect on him that meant the most to me.

RGP: Yes. And Gandalf didn't dare give him the Ring to keep secret because it meant nothing to Tom. He might have just lost track of it because it was worthless to him. It had no power over him. He was FREE.

BRD: Understanding how little these trinkets mean to the general scheme of things, so much less than a butterfly flapping his wings over the sandy coast of Mali.

I wondered how it would be for Barry and I at the end.

I kept thinking back to walking into that hospital room and having him stand up and salute me when I had been told he might be paralyzed. This time I knew he wouldn’t be able to stand up and salute me. And I knew he wouldn’t like that.

So, I wondered. And as I flew across country I sort of knew already how it would play out.

And sure enough in the span of that few minutes, while I was being driven from the bus depot in Braintree to his house in Easton, Barry passed on.

When I arrived, there was nothing in the atmosphere but luminosity, like the purest freshly fallen snow, a freshly fallen snow of luminosity that would never melt or even blemish, the billowing, ineffable, eternal, all-pervading luminosity reveals itself in such moments.

It reminded me of another passage from Lord of the Rings. During the siege of Gondor, as the tide of battle turned against them and their death seemed imminent.

PIPPIN: I didn't think it would end this way.

GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?

GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

PIPPIN: Well, that isn't so bad.

GANDALF: No. No, it isn't.”

When two gentlemen came to take Barry’s remains later in the evening, I followed them out into the dark rain, I walked behind them to their vehicle and stood at attention as they loaded up, and then as they drove off, I saluted my friend, that magical being, a warrior, a true warrior, therefore a man of peace, a man of intellect, and valor, a man of love.

50 years. 5 decades. The arc of a friendship and a shared spiritual adventure.

It has been my honor to share it with you all this morning.

The impact of Barry's love is reflected so vividly among all of you gathered in this beautiful space.

So I will close with a poem written by Guin Miller, in grief for her son, a pilot killed in military service. She later set it to music for Joe to sing with his great tenor voice.

It speaks of love human and divine, and of its transcendent, transformative nature.

Heart of my heart, Thou greater part of Me,
I thought I could not bear the pain of separation from Thee,
But now I see only Thee in multiplicity, for Thou art everywhere.
It is enough to know, to be.

[For lyrics, letters, poetry and photos, please visit or Barry's Facebook page,]

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

SFTS Lodge Dharma Message for December 2018: "Before the Eyes Can See ..."


So how does this all work out to me being who I am now? 

Well, there's that verse at the front end of Light on the Path,“Before the eyes can see, they must be incapable of tears ...." Because they understand than they were never born and will never die and they have only to show empathy and love for everyone.  

“Before the ears can hear, they must have lost their sensitiveness ...." So that anything said against you, regardless of who said it or how lousy it is, it don't break you up and you don't lose your cool.  

"Before the voice can speak in the Presence of the Masters, it must have lost its power to wound ...." So what you say to them, regardless of what they do to you, is kind whether they are aware of it or not. 

 "Before the feet can stand in the Presence of the Masters, they must be washed in the blood of the heart ...." So that your very understanding will have become of the HEART'S BLOOD, the ESSENCE of LIFE ITSELF that is kept alive by the breath and the INFINITE POWER that is flowing through us all.

Then there's something else that Mabel Collins wrote in another book:

There are three truths which are absolute and which cannot be lost, but which may remain silent from the lack of speech.

The soul of Man is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendor have no limit.

The principle which gives us life dwells in us, without us, is undying and eternally beneficent. It is not heard or seen or smelt, but is perceived by the man who desires perception.

Each man is his own absolute law-giver, the dispenser of glory or gloom to himself, and the decreer of his life, his reward, and his punishment.

These truths which are as great as life itself are as simple as the simplest mind of man. Feed the hungry with them.

Idyll of The White Lotus, p. 123. 

Words we manufacture in our heads. But what's behind the words bleeds through to whoever's listening. You each carry the chalice within your own heart, what you give is up to you, what you withhold is up to you. You can make it narrow or confining, or grasping or you can let it be a gesture of compassion to everybody. It's not a profitable way to live. You don't end up with a fortune or anything like that. But believe me, if you follow the laws that are stated in those three truths, you'll always be taken care of.

-- Joe Miller in "Great Song: Life and Teachings of Joe Miller," Edited with An Introduction by Richard Power, Foreword by Coleman Barks, p. 163.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

SFTS Lodge Calendar of Events for December 2018 and January 2019

[NOTE: Remember our new start times, the Lodge Library opens at 6 p.m. and the weekly Lodge meeting begins at 7:00 p.m.] 


Friday, December 7th

Conversations in Theosophy

Friday, December 14th

Conversations in Theosophy

Friday, December 21st

Lodge Annual Holiday Celebration - Joyous Solstice/Christmas/New Year. Join us for Feasting and Singing.

Friday, December 28th

NO MEETING. LODGE CLOSED. Joyous Christmas and New Year.

Friday, January 4th

NO MEETING. LODGE CLOSED. Joyous Christmas and New Year.

Friday, January 11th

Enneagram as Tool for Compassion, An Introduction to Attentional Habit -- Noah Gray

Friday, January 18th

Dragon Bone Broth: New Insights, New Writings -- Richard Power

Friday, January 25th

Yoga Nidra -- John Paul